Alphabet Soup Challenge: M is for Marriage

Next Tuesday will be our 30th wedding anniversary.

Obviously, with the Covid-19 pandemic and recently rolled out “Safer at Home” orders, Hubs and I will not be getting out of dodge to celebrate, like we typically do. I’m guessing the most I can count on is an invigorating hike and a picnic. Which is fine by me.

It’s fine by me because our marriage is bigger than that.

Our pairing began as a summer fling. Hubs seduced me one night by giving me what was the only foot rub I ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I was 21 and he was 18. I was taking summer courses at college to ensure I would graduate in 4 years. I was bored and starting to come to terms with the notion that I may not find someone to marry in college after all.

The truth is, I entered my freshman year of college as a romantic. While I was determined to obtain my degree in that 4 years, I was equally determined to meet my future husband during that time.

I was such a silly girl back then.

The romantic relationships I had up until that point were lopsided. Either I was more into him or he was more into me. It never felt equal.

But with the Hubs, it was different. Our conversations flowed. He made me laugh. He made me feel good about myself. He encouraged me in my studies. He was thoughtful and mature beyond his years (I actually thought he was at least a couple of years older the first couple of times I met him because of this).

Over the course of that summer, we fell in love.

Hubs proposed to me in the basement of my sorority house one evening. It was November and starting to get chilly out. He presented me with a new pair of gloves and requested, with a big grin on his dimpled face, that I try them on. Inside the left glove there was an engagement ring.

I did not hesitate for a second, responding with a resounding “Yes!”.

I graduated with my BS in Social Work that spring. Hubs and I moved into our first apartment in the summer, where we slept on a mattress donated by his parents, sans boxspring and frame. I spent the next year working in a customer service job while he continued working and going to school. During this year, my mom and I planned our wedding.

We got married in the church I grew up in one year to the day after I graduated from college. It was Pastor Reppe’s last wedding before he retired.

Wedding party 5/26/90

Years later, while milling about with friends and family at that same church following my Godfather’s funeral, Hubs found himself in a conversation with Pastor Reppe. The good pastor had of course been retired for a number of years by then and he asked Hubs how the two of us were faring. Hubs gave him a solemn look and said “We actually didn’t make it. Haven’t been married to that woman for a few years now”. Hubs recounted that the look of shock and sadness on Pastor Reppe’s face was priceless. Then Hubs let out his hearty, loud laugh and told him he was teasing; we actually were still together. Still happy and busy working full time and parenting our two kids.

Now, as with any long term marriage, we’ve gone through a lot together. Raised our two kids, adopted a few dogs, moved 6 times, laid both of my parents to rest, enjoyed a few epic vacations (with and without kids), changed jobs, mourned the loss of friends and family members, became grandparents, and much more. Good and bad. Happy and sad.

I wouldn’t change a damn thing. And I’m eager to see what the next 30 years might bring.

Alphabet Soup: C Is For Collaboration

I’ve chosen the letter “C” for my first installment of this writing experiment because I’ve been itching to write about collaboration. It’s such a powerful thing when two or more people come together to produce something better than what they could have done as individuals.

Like when friends come together to produce fundraisers to help someone in need. Or when families come together to pull off a great surprise party for a loved one. When great scientific minds from different disciplines come together and connect the dots to find treatments to combat physical or mental health challenges. I think when people come together with a common goal, shared hearts, and varied skills and talents, wonderful things can happen.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the “stay at home” or “safer at home” orders (depending on where you live) causing us to have more time at home to consume entertainment, I’m going to focus on that type of collaboration here.

One of my WIGS (Wildly Improbably Goals, a concept coined by sociologist/author/life coach Martha Beck) as a writer is to collaborate with other writers. Put our writerly heads together and come up with original programming. Learn and grow from each other. Inspire and amuse each other. Inspire and amuse the world at large.

Allow me to give you a visual that demonstrates how I envision working with a team of other writers on a tv or film set (I’d be the one taking the picture).

The fictional writer’s room from the brilliantly funny tv show, 30 Rock

If I were a producer, however, I’d be in a position where I could orchestrate interesting musical collaborations….

The first one would be Alicia Keys and Alanis Morrisette. It might sound cheesy, but I envision them putting together a 2020 version of “Ebony and Ivory”, a la Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul. Alicia would be at the piano and Alanis would whip out her harmonica at just the right moment. I think their voices would compliment each other.

How about a star-studded version of that rebellious ’80’s tune by Twisted Sister, “We’re not Gonna Take It”? It’d be along the lines of “We are the World” (remember that one?) featuring artists such as Foo Fighters, Green Day, and Pink. It’d be the rallying cry for the DNC to motivate Americans to vote all blue in 2020.

One of Hubs’ favorite songs of all time is “A Little Good News” by the Canadian songbird Anne Murray. I’d like to see Jewel collaborate with the Dixie Chicks to cover this one. Wouldn’t it be so fitting for these times?

Let’s have some fun, people! Let me know by sharing in the comments what collaborations you’d love to see in these times? Or maybe share a collaboration you have seen and loved?

Here’s the best one I have probably ever seen. Enjoy!

My Alphabet Soup Challenge

I was late to the party. Not an uncommon occurrence for me, when I reflect back on my life.

Or I could say I missed the boat. The boat that scores of other bloggers hopped on last month. The “A-Z” challenge. For whatever reason, this annual blogging challenge didn’t come to my attention until last month, when I began reading Crystal’s “A-Z” challenge blog posts. And while enjoying these posts, I found myself thinking that I should do this. It’s just so up my alley.

But April is outta here and now we are in May and I’d feel like a dork if I started it now. And today’s is Mother’s Day and I probably should be publishing a post about that.

But….

I’m going to embrace my dorkiness and do it anyway. With a twist though. My way. In other words, not starting with the letter “A” and ending with the letter “Z”. I am committed to covering each and every letter in the alphabet however. Just not in order.

Being that I’m starting this writing challenge this month as opposed to last month, I’m already not “in order”. So I’m going to just roll with that.

That’s why I’m calling it the “Alphabet Soup” challenge. I will keep the list of the letters with the corresponding words in a special draft folder and cross them off each time I publish a post (lest I accidentally choose one letter twice). Until I’ve done them all. It might take a while but I’ll do it regularly. I’ll aim for once a week, but there might be a week here and there where some other topic has taken up too much space in my brain or in my heart compelling me to write about that instead.

I hope you’ll stick with me folks. It’s going to be an experiment. And if there ever was a time to be experimental with the writing I put out there in the universe, this, my friends, is it.

At Home Retreats

It occurred to me whilst sitting on the toilet in our downstairs half-bath that capturing a photo of this was something I needed to do. It’s a weird display for sure, but it really got me thinking.

Kiddo’s artwork overseeing a book that gives me anxiety.

First though, it got me feeling. Overwhelmed at the concept of visiting 1,000 places before I die. A ridiculously tall order. Fortunately, I have perused this book just enough to know that I don’t actually want to visit all of them, or even most of them. Just a small portion. Maybe 2.5%. So 25 places, right? That might be doable. “Might” being the key word here.

Anyway, then it got me thinking if there were 1,000 places in my house right now that I could “visit” and capture photos of. And make a whole blog post about it. I mean, besides my workplace, right now I’m just here at home, thanks to Covid-19.

Then I realized that would be bonkers, not to mention excruciatingly boring for any of the dear souls who happened to attempt to read that blog post.

So that idea was scrapped.

With my down time these days, I’ve been trying to spruce this joint up. Ordered a few decorative items on Wayfair. Currently pondering a purchase of a cool looking framed map of the world to hang above the futon in our office. Created a list of small home projects for Hubs to do this spring. I’m aiming to give this place some TLC; to make it more “us”. Make it feel more of a sanctuary that induces comfort.

But I’ve also been day-dreaming about how things might be, if instead of living here in our small-ish Colorado townhome, we were living in one of our previous houses during this stay-at-home order. Some of those houses had amenities that I loved but would appreciate so much more right now.

Specifically, the spots in the last two houses we lived in where I could retreat. By myself. To do my own thing. Sit and think. Listen to music or a podcast. Paint my toenails. I think these days, for those of us living with others during this pandemic, having a special spot inside your four walls all to yourself once in a while is necessary for mental well-being.

Maybe it’s your bedroom. Maybe it’s your home office. Maybe it’s your walk-in closet. Maybe it’s whatever space is available when you need it. It’s a place just for you when you need to think your own thoughts without being interrupted. To collect yourself and get reacquainted with your inner self. To indulge in some healthy daydreaming.

This brings to mind the cover of a great old Beach Boys song, which was performed by Fiona Apple and Jakob Dylan for the documentary soundtrack “Echo in The Canyon”, which I had the pleasure of watching a few weeks back.

Do yourself a favor and take a listen:

The first house we purchased in Wisconsin had a massive deck attached to the back. If we lived there right now, I’d be taking regular respites on it to simply soak up the greenery, the peace and quiet, and the sunshine.

Hubs in his happy place, grilling out for friends on the deck of our first house in Wisconsin.

If we lived in the house on 30th Street right now, the fixer-upper “Grandma” ranch style house we bought in Wisconsin after selling the house with the great big deck, I’d enjoy “me” time on that groovy 3-season porch. I’d open the shades up to let the sun in. I’d use the large floor space to do some morning stretches and a few yoga poses. I’d sit on one of those comfy deck chairs with my feet propped up and read a book. And I’d have the option to grab a “zero gravity” lounging chair to catch some rays in the beautiful fenced in back yard.

Our eldest and her beautiful boy with me in the 3 season porch in our house on 30th Street on her first Mother’s Day

How about you all? Do you have a space in your home to retreat to all by your lonesome? I hope that is the case for each and every one of you in this wacky time.

The Upside of The Slow Down

Life has slowed down and I kinda like it.

Don’t get me wrong-I wish Covid-19 and the stay-at-home order that resulted from it didn’t exist.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit having my life slow down as a result didn’t have its benefits.

I’d also be lying if I told you I didn’t miss getting a massage every couple of weeks (my shoulders and my right hip are killing me, people!). I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t miss going to church every Sunday and embracing my friends there. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss jumping into the car with Hubs and the kiddo to enjoy a cold brew amongst our neighbors at one of our local brew pubs.

I’d really be lying to you if I said I was not speaking from a place of privilege. My lamentations are merely temporary inconveniences.

So on that note, I’d like to share what I believe have been the positive results of the “stay at home” order since it began, what, 6 weeks ago?

WORK

I have a much deeper appreciation for going into the office Mon-Fri.

I ended up being quarantined at home for 2 full weeks which I wrote about here, due to a possibility that I had contracted Covid-19 from an individual that was present in the same facility as I was who tested positive. I never became symptomatic, thank God.

Because of this, my role at the agency changed essentially overnight. I was tasked to begin a new program, which we had recently acquired grant money for. It involves calling our clients to check in as a “friendly visitor”. Now, making these phone calls was quite enjoyable for me. And with Hubs working from home (until the end of the year actually) and the kiddo for the most part doing their own thing and working part time, the environment in this house was quite conducive for it.

However.

OMG, you guys, I sooo missed seeing the faces of my co-workers. I missed organizing the food bank. Receiving donations. Handing out food (via curb side pick up) to our hungry clients. The damn Keurig machine. I missed dressing in my work clothes, especially as I had gone out clothes shopping prior to everything getting shut down. I had nowhere to wear my new frocks!

I made my triumphant return to the office last Monday. Woo-hoo! Fortunately, things were not in disarray when I returned. My co-workers and our lovely volunteers got the job done in my absence. And while I continued my new work project, I also was able to help with managing the food bank and procuring more food donations. While wearing my new duds and enjoying myself a cup here and there of dark roasted coffee courtesy of our beloved Keurig machine.

HOME

I have embraced my homebody tendencies.

I mentioned in a recent post how I had been getting re-acquainted with my kitchen. That has continued. The jury is out with the Instant Pot, but that is a whole nother story. With the temps increasing, the grill is starting to get more use as is our dear Crockpot. And Sundays have now been declared “Dessert Day” because it gives me something enjoyable to do while I jam out to my Google playlists and well…dessert.

We are also “family-ing” (a coin termed by my MIL) in a more intentional way these days. We have created some silly art:

Paper hearts in our window to show solidarity for the Covid-19 stay at home order.

We have spent time listening to music and strumming along with our guitar (Hubs) and ukulele (now mine). We have played games on the Jackbox TV app (Guesspionage was especially fun). We have played laser pointer games with our furry housemates. We have gotten outside with these darling creatures for neighborhood walks. We are having more meaningful conversations with each other. All things that may not have occurred had it not been for the Covid-19 stay-at-home order.

And seriously, thank the good Lord for the ability we have to video chat with our loved ones. Seeing their faces and hearing their laughter this mom/daughter-in-law/grandma is simply the best.

I am excited about the possibility that once summer is in full swing, we will be safe to venture out into the big wide world again (excuse me while I indulge my optimistic tendencies). But I do hope to maintain this mentally healthier balance between being busy (I dare you to recall the last time you heard anyone tell you how busy they are) and just being. Because this is the lesson I want to have learned from this.

Time To Write Some Letters

The USPS is likely to collapse unless the feds agree to bail them out in the next few months. This is not a good thing.

The USPS is an American institution that we have relied on all of our lives. Plus I have a very close friend who is a “lifer” at a post office in Wisconsin. He and hundreds of thousands of other postal workers would lose their jobs, and their health insurance. During a pandemic.

Doesn’t seem right to me.

So I was thinking, what can I do to help? What can others do to help? To try to prevent this from happening? To me, it’s a no-brainer.

Let’s all pledge to start writing letters.

I know, I know, it seems like such a small and possibly futile thing to do. But for those of us who consider themselves to be writers, it should feel natural. Enjoyable. Cathartic, even.

I remember being in high school and getting the name and address of another girl in one of those teeny bopper magazines I consumed on the regular. Her name was Liz and she lived in Pennsylvania. We became pen pals. We wrote each other back and forth every couple of weeks for I believe about 2 years. It was fun. I would send her pictures of me and my friends and she would do the same. It was exciting to get her letters in the mail.

Wouldn’t it be fun to try that again, as adults?

Now I’ve got this sorta weird compulsion to purchase greeting cards. Especially if I’m in some kind of cute little gift shop while traveling. Or when I go to Trader Joe’s (did you know they sell fabulous greeting cards for just $1 a pop?).

Sometimes I pick one because of the art. Sometimes it’s the message. Once in a while, it’s both and I have conjured up the image of it’s recipient on the spot. Now that’s a happy moment for me.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve currently got on hand.

You do you, but what I plan on doing this week is picking one of these cards and writing a few lines to someone I care about. Let them know I’m thinking of them and hoping all is well in their corner of the world. And help out the USPS in the process.

Then, the next week, I’ll choose another card and a different person to send it to. Or maybe I will use the pretty stationary I know I have around here somewhere and get out one of my colored pens and have a go at it. Good thing Hubs purchased approximately 2 years of postage stamps on line the other day.

Seems like a worthy pursuit to me. Who’s with me?

A Happy Mom Story

With Mother’s Day approaching (wait..I know it’s next month…let me check) on Sunday, May 10th, and some time on my hands to ponder things, I’ve decided to do some writing about motherhood.

Now, there are so many ways I can approach this topic. I’ve got 27 years of mothering experience under my belt to draw from. As a mom to 2 very different, sometimes challenging, always determined and quite lovable kids to being mothered by Bonnie, to sharing in the joys and concerns of motherhood with the other mothers I’ve known and loved, I’ve got some stories.

Suffice it to say, “Motherhood” is a huge topic for me.

Today, however, I’m going to rely on my basic mantronym of “Keep It Simple Sister” and tell you a recent story about the kiddo that is currently residing with me and Hubs.

Consider this a #proudmommoment, if you will.

So the 26 year old who lives in my house came home from their part time job at the local discount store a couple of weeks ago and relayed the following: They were at their cashier stand ringing customers up when the cops came in response to a call from the kiddo’s supervisor. The call was made due to the behavior of a disheveled, confused and presumably homeless man. He had been wandering around the store, opening up and consuming snacks. Kiddo found the stern tone the officers were using with this man concerning. They were certain the officers were gearing up to arrest him.

The disheveled man made it to my kiddo’s station where they confessed they had no money to purchase the items in their cart. Kiddo felt sorry for the man and believed he didn’t belong in jail. They decided in that moment to pay for the man’s items. The cops relented and the man was able to obtain all the items he had in his cart. Kiddo was told by their supervisor that if this situation happened again, they would be fired. Despite this, I am proud of the kiddo. They did the right thing.

Had I been in their situation I can’t say I would have responded in the same manner. I am not a rule breaker by nature. I like to think I would have at least advocated for the man, pleaded with the officers to be lenient with him. To cut him a break, show him some compassion.

That same day, kiddo brought this home to us, along with a Thank You card for housing and supporting them until they are in a position to get their own pad.

This kiddo is alright.

What happy stories might you have as mothers (or fathers, I am an equal opportunity blogger after all) that made you proud of your kids? Please share in the comments!

Right Now And Write Now: How I’m Rolling

Things have changed in oh so many ways. And I suspect the changes in my life, both at work and at home, are going to continue, in wild and unexpected ways. For better and for worse. As all of ours will due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I was banished from my workplace yesterday. It came to light via email yesterday morning that I may have had contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Not anyone at work, but an unknown individual (HIPPA prevents the employer of this person from publicly naming them) at a location where I was picking up items for our food bank.

While I donned a face mask during this pick up and am fairly certain did not get any closer than 6 feet from anyone else there, my employer gave me the rest of the week off (with pay, thankfully) as a precaution.

Me in my office last week. Gawd, I need a haircut.

So here I am now, at home, overthinking everything and anything. Unsure what to do next. Determined to maintain continuous virtual contact with my co-workers, at the ready to answer questions or complete other tasks assigned to me that can be done from home (what those tasks might be remains to be seen, but I am determined to roll with it). In other words, I finally broke down and decided it is in my as well as my employers best interest to sync my personal cell phone to my work email account. I suppose I’ll be setting up a Zoom account on this phone shortly too.

All that said, I am, alas, at home today until next Monday (with maybe one trip to the store in the mix). So clearly I ought to take care of our little sanctuary. Do some cleaning. Organizing. It’ll make me feel better and it will increase our collective level of comfort.

But not until I engage in some serious venting lamenting writing. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been fantasizing about just one day during which I inhabit the role of a full-on, at home, creative writer. One who furiously taps away on her Chromebook drinking an array of beverages all the while-starting with coffee and ending with a glass of fine Pinto Grigio. Wearing the comfiest of clothes , making sure to get up and stretch and/or dance to keep those muscles loose and the mental energy high.

So that’s my plan for today. I think anyway. Because I also know this….

Don't You Know I Have Plans for You? - First Churches of ...

I Can’t Not

Let’s face it: As bloggers and readers, right in this moment, we cannot exactly avoid writing or reading about the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has invaded all of our moments to some degree. Whether waking and/or sleeping. It’s getting all nestled into our psyches.

But we can control how we think of it. How we respond to it. Just like anything else (not like there is anything else to quite compare it to). We can control the amount of time and mental energy we spend on it. But we can’t (though I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a part of me that just wants to stay in bed and wait for it to blow over) completely avoid this new reality.

Call me Captain Obvious if you must.

Johnny Depp in his finest role

Now, my thoughts and feelings, and I imagine yours too, are subject to change on this matter. Because we are receiving new information on the pandemic faster than we can process it. This is messing with our heads.

We can go from looking at it as a circumstance that is bringing out the ugliness in people to looking at it as an opportunity for self improvement and noticing the good it brings out in others. I choose option #2.

We can go from focusing on our concerns for the well being of the loved ones who live far from us to the ones who are physically with us in the here and now. I, for one, intend to hug the two other humans and at least one of the furry beings I share my home with as often as I can. Once of course we have shed our outside clothes for our inside clothes (am I the only one who is intentionally shopping online for active wear lounge worthy attire right now?) and properly sanitized ourselves.

We can go from feeling sad about the length of time it may be before we can leave our homes and spend time in those public places we are missing so much to feeling enthusiastic about having more time at home to contemplate life and engage in activities that feed our spirits. Or starting to plan, say travel in the mid-summer that is more likely to occur than not, as I will be doing?

I think it’s of utmost importance for all of us to remember that we are all experiencing this together; collectively. Just from different perches.

There’s no doubt that it’s harder for some of us than others. It’s easier for some of us than others. We all have our unique obstacles in this time, but this pandemic is affecting all of us at the same time.

What lessons do you suppose we will learn?

I think we will learn what we truly value. Who we truly value.

I think we will learn what we are made of. How tough we are. How tough others are. What our weaknesses are, individually and as a society. What we’re capable of.

But let’s not forget this truism:

Getting Reacquainted with my Kitchen

As an optimist by nature I’m finding the benefits of this partial quarantine. I have, as a matter of fact, rediscovered the joy of cooking.

Since the kiddo has moved in, I’ve fallen away from cooking our evening meals. It wasn’t intentional. It’s just that it turns out that in the years this kid was not living in our home, they learned the joy of cooking. And not the kind of cooking they learned from me (read: I am, until fairly recently, a strict recipe follower). The kind of cooking that is more organic. More intuitive. No measuring involved. They use more spices and a wider, and sometimes unexpected, variety of them.

And it turns out they are a really good cook. Quite a delightful surprise for this mom. The image of my mom pops in my head actually when I watch them whipping something delicious on the stove. Which always makes me smile. I think Bonnie would appreciate this.

A few weeks ago, before this partial quarantine (I am still going to work, folks), I remembered the meatball recipe I saw on my charming blogger friend Annie’s blog. And I decided we ought to try it.

Now, I wasn’t able to find smoked sea salt at the grocery store, so I used plain old salt. But I did find hamburger and italian sausage there. In fact, I picked up a pound of each, then split them up, putting half in the freezer for later. Because I assumed that they’d be so delicious I’d want to make them again. I assumed right.

Hubs and the kiddo raved about them. I thought they were scrumptious, though next time (despite my family’s opposition) I will cut down on the red pepper flakes just a bit.

Do yourself a favor and try it! Here’s the recipe: https://givememeatloaf.com/2020/01/31/spicy-italian-meatballs-with-classic-marinara-appetizer/

And here’s my picture of the finished product:

Last Friday at work, we received a large donation of home chef bagged meal kits. So many that I ran out of room for them in our refrigerators. I decided to take a couple of them home and try them. On Sunday, as we watched the remainder of the newest “Jumanji” movie (recommend this if you want some true escapism), I planted myself in our little kitchen and got to work.

There was something about doing that that gave me such comfort. I was being productive and useful. As there was no instructions found in these paper bag meal kits, I was forced to use the ingredients as I saw fit. I used all of them except the kale, sweet potatoes (the kid made homemade treats for Radar with them) and something called “cashew crema”, which resembled the tube feeding liquid someone donated to our food bank once. When I asked Hubs how I thought I should cook the kale, his response was that it needed to be thoroughly washed…then put down the garbage disposal.

After an hour or so, we wound up with this fantastic meal of whole wheat linguine with flavorful marinara sauce (which I doctored up with the shallot and garlic cloves supplied in the kit, along with a dash of red pepper flakes). Accompanied by baked and seasoned chicken breasts smothered in the prepared pesto sauce with pine nuts and bursting-with-flavor grape tomatoes. And all of us, as Annie would say,”lurrvved” it!

So on account of Hubs and I not spending money on our planned trip to Florida with our friends, I decided to do a little splurge. I went online and bought an “Instant Pot”. And I’m determined this new toy of mine is not going to go by the way of the air fryer I bought a couple of years ago (which is now referred to as the tater tot maker). This sucker is going to get used, baby!

How about you all? Are you like me, rediscovering the joy of cooking? Or rediscovering something else that gives you joy with all this unexpected time stuck at home?

Tales from an optimist transplanted from Wisconsin to Colorado. Finding silver linings, lifting others up, sharing positively good stuff

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